Fast & Furious 6 ★★½

Check your brain at the door as you won’t need it for the next two hours. Fast Five was a genuine surprise back in 2011 as it ditched the repetitive street racing of the previous films to deliver a frenetic heist movie full of wit and invention. Furious 6 abandons the dumb Day-Glo delights of its predecessor for a darker, although no less retarded, story that gets bogged down in the bland and convoluted mythology of the franchise.

This time around the Toretto crew have relocated to Europe and become the hunter in this cat and mouse actioner. Now working with Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) they are on the trail of a deadly road crew who need to collect one final MacGuffin for their barely explained nefarious plot. Complicating proceedings is the presence of an amnesia-suffering Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) working for this evil doppelganger crew.

Logical plotting has never been the series’ strong suit and Furious 6 continues this tradition as Toretto and his makeshift family try to take Letty back from the evil clutches of Shaw (Luke Evans), a former SAS soldier turned bad. Part of Fast Five’s success was its self-contained story that hinted at past events but was never beholden to them. This latest offering attempts to tie up all the franchise’s loose ends as if the audience really cared about the relationships and weren’t just watching for the ridiculous set pieces.

Shaw is a rather anonymous villain in a franchise full of forgettable foes but he still proves to be a tricky customer with a number of souped-up toys at his disposal. Because the cast of returning characters is so large any new additions are given short shrift and simply used to bulk out the action sequences. Even Hobbs, who provided such entertaining tension in the last film, is reduced to a lumbering idiot always several steps behind everybody else. More disappointingly, the highly charged homoerotic friction between him and Dom has been replaced by a series of flat quips.

Gone is the breezy, banter-filled bravado of Rio and in its place is an oddly ponderous story of family redemption as Dom and the gang attempt to bring Letty back. Constantly referencing past events, and even pointlessly introducing even more long forgotten characters, Furious 6 is a film that is always looking back rather than forward and it makes for a frustrating experience. For diehard fans of the series this closure is probably welcome, for everybody else it is a pointless diversion from the exuberant road-based destruction.

These set pieces are as mental and logic-defying as ever with Justin Lin finding new ways to destroy cars and public property. The sequences are large, loud and a lot of fun as the team comes up against their biggest opposition to date. From inner-city chases to interstate car-nage, the film manages to avoid repetition during the numerous and spectacular car-based stunts. The only problem is that the marketing has spoiled practically every major action beat in the film meaning surprises are in short supply. Disappointingly the fist fights are messily edited this time around too with only the ladies (Rodriguez and Gina Carano) given time to shine outside the confines of their muscle cars.

Whilst this review may sound overly negative the film still has a crude charm, and when it isn’t constantly stalling due to the boring Letty subplot, it manages to entertain thanks to its relentless stupidity, larger than life characters and edge-of-the-seat spectacle. Weaker than Fast Five in almost every regard this is not quite the joyous new direction I had hoped for.